Joe Biden’s slide into the Democratic presidential nomination begins Saturday as South Carolina, the state that saved his struggling campaign four years ago, kicks off the party’s official primary season.
Biden is the heavy favorite to win the South Carolina primary against relatively weak opposition: US Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota and failed 2020 candidate Marianne Williamson. Early voting in the state began on January 22. Voting closed on the 7th. ET on Saturday evening.
In addition to the fundraising advantages that come with the position, Biden is a strong supporter of South Carolina’s Democratic establishment, particularly Rep. James ClyburnA force in Congress and a leader in the Black community.
Biden won the New Hampshire primary last month, but the result is largely symbolic. When compiling the official primary schedule, Democratic officials put South Carolina first. New Hampshire made the jump against the party’s wishes, and as a result, its delegates may not count in the final tally.
Biden is hoping to win South Carolina by a large margin, which could infuse his candidacy with more energy and help divert attention away from him. stop down in public opinion polls. He made repeated trips to South Carolina in the run-up to the election, including a stop last month Church in Charleston Where a white racist killed nine worshipers in 2015.
Black voters make up the majority of South Carolina’s Democratic electorate. In campaign speeches, Biden has emphasized efforts to improve their lives, noting that his administration has helped historically Black colleges and programs to eliminate student loan debt.
He barely mentions his primary rivals, instead focusing on former President Donald Trump, the favorite to win the GOP nomination.
Speaking at a recent campaign dinner in Columbia, Biden said, “You are the reason Donald Trump lost as a former president. You are the reason Donald Trump lost. You are the reason we won and beat him again.”
Gratitude goes both ways between the president and South Carolina. Biden’s 2020 campaign was poised to kick off ahead of the South Carolina primary that February. He had lost badly in the previous two races in Iowa and New Hampshire. Buoyed by Clyburn’s endorsement, he won the primary, gained momentum, and began his march to the nomination.
South Carolinians, for their part, may feel indebted to Biden for using his influence as party leader to hold the state’s first official contest.
Historically, Iowa and New Hampshire have been first and second, respectively. But the Democratic National Committee voted last year to push South Carolina to the front of the pack, citing the state’s racial diversity as opposed to the more white voting populations of Iowa and New Hampshire.
“No other president has ever, ever thought about moving Iowa and New Hampshire back — until this president did,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Jamie Harrison of South Carolina said at a party event in Spartanburg. “Because he saw the value of South Carolina to him and he understands how important this state and the people in this state are to the Democratic Party.”
Not wanting to give up pole position, New Hampshire ran the same race last month. Biden was not on the ballot and did not campaign in the state, but still won the popular vote.
A total of 55 delegates are at stake in South Carolina on Saturday. Delegates will be rewarded pro rata based on results. In total, a candidate needs about 2,000 delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination.
Biden’s support for Israel in its war with Hamas has emerged as a new weakness in his re-election bid. Some young voters blame Biden for sending aid to Israel, especially as the army’s offensive on Gaza has killed thousands of civilians.
“He gave us a reason not to vote for him,” said Tierra Albert, 19, a student at Claflin University, a historically black school in Orangeburg.
Given Biden’s formidable lead, the more interesting drama in South Carolina comes on February 24 when Trump and Nikki Haley face off in the state’s GOP primary. Under South Carolina’s open primary system, Democrats are free to vote in the Republican primary (but are prohibited from voting in both).
That dynamic has fueled speculation that some Democrats might get through Voting in the Republican primary With the goal of helping Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, and slowing Trump’s bid for the nomination.
However, there are intersecting pressures in the workplace. South Carolina Democrats want a big turnout to justify the party’s decision to put the state on the front burner. Poor turnout could reopen the debate over which state goes first in 2028 and beyond.
During early voting in the state’s primary last month, Clyburn told poll workers he hoped they were busy during the day, meaning Democratic voters would be out in force for Biden.
He later held a press conference and was asked by NBC News about the possibility of Democrats opting out of the Democratic primary and instead voting for Haley in the upcoming GOP contest.
“I hear a lot about it,” he said of this strategic move. “I never approved it and I don’t think it ever worked.”